The challenges we’ve seen during the COVID-19 pandemic has given us the chance to re-imagine our society and think about how we want to live in the future and also to think about what values are important for us to live by. My solution to the challenge of providing a society in which all the population are able to live a good standard of life, adequately providing for their needs, despite emergencies and unexpected global pandemics or catastrophes, is to implement a Universal Basic Income scheme (UBI). There are many advantages to providing every adult member of the population with a regularly paid basic amount of money which will enable them to maintain an adequate life style. Contrary to popular opinion, a government UBI scheme does not make people lazy or refuse to work. In countries that have implemented the scheme in a limited experimental way (Finland, for example and Kenya), it was found to encourage the unemployed to look for work (in Finland, the scheme was implemented amongst a small number of random unemployed people). It also gave people a sense of confidence in their future and a feeling of self-respect. The cost of the scheme is often used as a reason for not pursuing this but many countries have found in hard economic times, that giving the population an amount of “free” money boosts the economy (Australia has done this and the USA and, indeed, the British government did it in a small way after the first lockdown, when introducing the £10 meal in restaurants and pubs – this immediately gave a huge boost to the food industry). More money available, to be spent in the economy, actually improves the economic growth of the country. Since the 1970’s we have been told by Futurologists that our working lives will become redundant because of more automated and roboticized technologies. It was predicted that by 2000 most of us would not be working. This did not happen as, instead, unnecessary middle management positions were created to “use up” the working population. This in effect, stultifies innovation and creativity as it just maintains the status quo. If a UBI was implemented, more creative business could be explored – more suitable to servicing our modern technological world with more recreational opportunities than ever. Indeed, we have already seen, in the midst of a pandemic, many innovative and creative businesses have started up and thrived. Businesses that would not have been thought of without the pandemic. We have seen a rise in online colleges, offering video courses, zoom lessons and lectures, home delivery of ingredients for all styles of baking and cooking, craft materials booming, home-made masks being made, etc. Another advantage to society when adopting UBI, is that in countries that have experimented with the scheme, it was shown that people had more time and inclination to volunteer for charity work or work in the community to improve the society they lived in. Communities became closer together and there were more points of contact between young and old people, therefore, ameliorating loneliness and isolation. A huge benefit from having a population who are well fed, not worried about money or security and with time to relax, is that stress and anxiety is lessened, diet is improved (as there is more money for healthy food choices) and sleep improves. All of these benefits (which implicate improved health – both physical and mental) takes the strain from medical services. People also have more time for relaxation and recreation, doing things like yoga, meditation, working with clubs and societies, starting community gardens and farms, all of which, then again, affects the health, sociability and well-being of the people participating. From the above, it can be seen that to have a population that is secure and thriving brings many benefits. Many will still say that the cost is prohibitive but this is a scheme for the long game. Improved health and mental well-being will bring their own advantages – making a happy, contented, motivated society – as well as saving huge amounts of money on medical resources. Social services will also not spend as much as it does now as many problems of poverty will disappear. As we know, deprived areas of Britain suffer from educational inequalities, if this deprivation is addressed, we will also have generations of children and young people who are much better educated and who will then contribute their own skills and attributes to the work environment and the country. If we want to live in an egalitarian society where everyone is given an opportunity to thrive, as well as maintaining a caring society and economic growth, then a Universal Basic Income is a good solution.
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